Such an incredible time we are living in, when we are moving towards an incredible new opportunity for expansion of what a democracy should be and for the conceptualising of a new way forward. Something that could lead to an example for the rest of the world.

Giving 16-year-olds the right to vote for their future enables them to have strong control over what they can have when they will grow up, while imparting them with a strong sense of belonging to their nation, to their democracy.

But, and there is always a ‘but’, we are doing it all wrong. Okay, maybe not all, since there are those who are doing their best to exert pressure to make sure the right steps are taken. Yet are they?

What example are we giving our youth, who will now need to start thinking critically and objectively about their future with our party politics?

What is the example that we are giving those who wish to one day stand up and lead, or simply stand up for something that they are passionate about?

We are showing them a world of politics which is tarred by those who will attack and kill any form of political expression, freedom of debate and discussion, with a culture of character assassination of those who do not agree with their views.

There are armies of trolls who will do anything to gain their masters’ gratitude even if this is not asked of them, freeing those in power from all liability.

We have those who will cut down any form of ‘dissent’ with impunity and ‘justice’, destroying those with a will to speak and fight for a cause they believe in.

It does not just stop at that.

These people are threatened with messages of hate, of death and murder. They are ridiculed publicly, as well as isolated by the annihilation of their close relationships through selective targeting of those who support these brave few.

What is it we want for Malta’s future: constructive debate, or a culture of hate?

Perhaps I am writing this out of anger and dismay at the situation I find myself in. I regret the hate that is pouring at me for simply sticking up for what I believe in. People who speak with me sense that I will be arrested, and that my future will be extinguished.

I am being advised by those close to me to slow down, to take it easy because they think they will be at my funeral in six months’ time.

Yet I stand here, with two choices: one to stand down and shut up, move on with what could be a successful life inside a company, not caring about everyone else; making sure I am cared for and those around me, my family and friends, have the money to live.

Or I can stand here, smiling at those who throw mud at me, smiling while I am ripped apart by rabid dogs who have no intention of accepting the discussion and debate I have offered time and time again.

Civic engagement should be second nature, not such a precarious state of affairs.

What does baffle me is the twisted nature of people who stop those from acting, yet in the same breath invite people to stand up and talk, to stand up and debate – just as long as they do so within the realm of their masters’ orders.

Alexander Hili is founder of Awturi, an activist group promoting democratic values of good governance and the rule of law in Malta.

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